Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.

Horse Jewelry? Try Rhythm Beads…

I have been on a writing hiatus. I have a ton of draft posts started and that’s overwhelming on top of all the other overwhelming stuff that has put me on this writing hiatus. I love writing so I don’t want to back away from it bc it seems daunting. I looked at all the draft posts and I decided to pick just one that I want to write. Nothing heavy just fun – so here it is. I am writing about Horse Rhythm beads. A fun and easy thing to tackle.

What in the heck are rhythm beads? Rhythm beads are a necklace for your horse! The necklace consists of beads and bells. The sound that the bells make while riding is said to be calming to the horse and rider. The other bonus is that the noise can alert wildlife that you are coming when you are on a trail ride. Nobody likes deer to jump out in front of their horses while on a path!

The origins of rhythm beads come from Native Americans.  Native Americans dressed up their horses not only for beauty but each piece had a purpose – mostly to provide protection to the horse and rider. I have been using rhythm beads for many years. I am so used to riding with them that it would seem odd not to have them jingling during my ride.

My horse adjusted to the beads right away. He is not spooked easily by things so I just put them on and off we went. It is advised to introduce them to your horse. Show the beads to them- and shake them so they can hear the noise they make. If that goes ok you can place them around their neck and maybe groom them while they wear the beads. Maybe jingle them a bit. Take them off.  Do this a couple more times. Then go out for a ride with them on but only walk – if that is going well begin to work at faster speeds. Pretty soon the sound of the beads will become a part of your rides. Never leave the beads on a horse – they are only to be used while riding.

There are many places online that sell these beads. Just google Rhythm Beads. I have also found them on Etsy.com as well.

Take a look below at the video I took while riding recently. It lacks in quality bc it is not easy riding a horse and filming at the same time! But you will be able to hear the beads in action.

These beads are from –Kristi Lyn Glass. Prices vary from site to site and can be more expensive with more detail , more bells and embellishments.  I love the way they look and I love how they sound.

Thanks for reading……

 

This is a mane dangle

These attach with a clip on the mane and has a quick release piece in case the necklace becomes caught on something while you are riding.

Ends and Beginnings…

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry…

But that was the last day of the Bedlam Farm Open House in Upstate new York hosted by Author Jon Katz – that was the end. So much happened in between – and to think up until the minute I left home on my trek I thought I might not go. I do that. Its my opt out mechanism. The opt out comes from a long dance with an anxiety disorder. As an event approaches – an event like the Open House that I was looking so forward to  going to – I will become increasingly anxious and I will think of reasons not to go…or I will feel so bad physically I will cancel. But as much as those thoughts came into my head the more I willed myself to push them out. I was going to Bedlam.

I have had enough of my dance with anxiety and the fact that it has limited me. It still wins sometimes. There is still part of me trained by the beast but I am getting better at ignoring it. After I had cancer last year I realized that life is now. None of us have the promise of tomorrow and decided that I better get living. For me that sometimes comes harder than it needs to be – but it is my reality. Over the years I have learned a a lot about dealing with anxiety and much was from the man I hoped to meet on my journey to Bedlam Farm – Author Jon Katz.  Jon has dealt with his own fears and I learned from Jon that fear is a space to cross – a chasm to jump over. Get through it and there is love and accomplishment on the other side. I had to jump that chasm to get to meet the person who has inspired me so much over the last few years. I wanted to meet the people in the Facebook group he created (The Creative Group At Bedlam Farm)and I joined a few years ago. A group of incredible creative people that i am lucky to have come to know online- I wanted to meet them in person. (read the bloggers posts here).

I had cancelled the trip to the other Open Houses two times prior.  I was pretty tired for a while after radiation and I had nerve damage and then I got frozen shoulder and traveling in the car was a bear. It seemed like I might never feel good enough to trek to upstate New York to attend and Open House. Of course anxiety played a roll in canceling the trips and finally I realized maybe I wont ever feel 100%.  I realized that though my mindset was to get busy living i was still limiting myself waiting to feel a certain way.  I might be waiting for a long time and i might be missing out on a lot of life. So this past winter I decided to get on with it. I began doing more things and I realized the more I got out the better I felt. So I booked a Yurt at Grist Mill Campground and decided to head to Bedlam in June. And even know that demon anxiety tried to thwart my trip – I faced it -and off we went – my entire family on my journey to my Mecca.

The car trip on Friday was a little rough but entering Upstate New York and its beauty made it so worth it. We checked into our Yurt -which I will write more about later- and headed out for a bite to eat. I hardly slept that night and was thankful for the sounds of the stream that ran just behind the yurt.

I am not going to lie–heading down south from our campground to Bedlam Farm I felt the anxiety build as the GPS counted down the miles to our destination. Kevin pulled into a restaurant just up the road from the farm to get some bottled water. I sat in the car praying that the Holy Spirit would calm me down..and I alternated between the prayer and  rationalization that we could drive right on by. There was no pressure…I did not have to go. Kevin came out and joked that he tried to score me a little wine but they didn’t sell it to go. Actually I think he really wasn’t kidding. But I told him that I was going into this head on and I was going to enjoy myself. I knew that the big fear cloud in front of me was thin and I could just step right through it. And I did.

When I saw the farm for the first time it was like a dream but also there was so much comfort in it. I barely recall walking up the driveway to the house (except I told Kevin I knew the boy in the ATV was Tyler- a young man who has been a huge help to Jon and Maria- he has become quite the celebrity). I looked up the driveway hoping to recognize someone. I laughed to myself bc I had never met anyone (except Janell Tomas that morning at our campground- and I thought they hadn’t arrived yet)- so who was I really looking for? I know anyone from the Creative Group reading this will know who I might have been looking for- a beacon in the forest – a light that always shines…Lisa Dingle. (No it wasn’t Jon Katz bc I would be too nervous to just run up to him and hug him- which I wanted to do!) Lisa is an Admin for the creative groups Facebook world but she is also everyones friend.  She is an incredible writer and a warm person..How did I know this having never met her? Her writing exudes it..her encouragement to others in our group shines of caring and love. And lo and behold there she was there to greet me! A big hug and introductions the first 30 minutes are a blur. I got that hug with Jon and was touched by his attention on a busy day with many people coming and going. Ok I was a little starstruck– it might be Brad Pitt for you but for me it was Jon Katz.

I was engulfed in love from all the farmies (members of the Creative Group)that were there. So many hugs and smiles. I knew right away that I was meant to come – it was something that had been waiting for me – this visit. The first 30 minutes were surreal- I was in a dream bc I was on Bedlam Farm- the farm I had seen in pictures thousands of times. I am not sure why – maybe it was the fact I had seen the photos of the farm so often- but I felt so at home in the space. But more oddly I felt like I had known many of these people already -and perhaps I did- you can create connections online.

I listened to poetry, visited with the animals, watched herding – all incredible. But I wanted to meet the matriarch (I had to use that word lol) of Bedlam..Maria Wulf , Jon’s wife. Maria has been an inspiration to me. I have seen her grow creatively over the years and I have always admired her quiet strength.  Kevin didn’t get to chat with Maria as I did and wondered if she was shy. I told him I didn’t find her shy at all…she was easy to talk with. She may not have realized that I was a bit starstruck with her too – and when I get nervous I talk a lot (sorry Maria if I blabbed). Most people don’t realize I have anxiety bc I compensate by talking! Meeting Maria was sure a highlight for me.

I wanted to take in the weekend and I really tried to focus on absorbing it all. I tried to talk less-hard for me- and listen and observe more. I didn’t take a ton of pictures the first day. I left that up to my daughter Kamilla. I just tried to soak it all in. It was overwhelming for the first hour – meeting so many new people. I wanted to embed their faces and names in my brain – but don’t test me.

I was enamored with the animals and Red is amazing! I can see that Fate is going to be some dog- I look forward to watching her grow. The great things about the end of Saturdays Open House is that there is another one on Sunday. So it really isn’t over.  On Saturday we decided to follow others to the Bog (nickname for Foggy Notions Restaurant in Cambridge Mass.). How unlike me to just meet strangers out for a bite…but not strange bc these people weren’t strangers. I had met them all before just not in the flesh. It was familiar and comfortable and good. I sat near the Deborah’s (Glessner and Rahalski) I chatted with Doug Anderson. During the meal, I never felt weird or tongue tied (maybe that was the wine spritzers). My husband was right there and as always he was chatting away and enjoying himself. His support is really what helps me face my fears. He is truly the partner I was meant to have on this life’s journey.

On Saturday night the rain began. So no campfire and I was worried what that might do for the open house the next day. In the morning we all headed down to the Roundhouse Cafe and enjoyed a meal and fellowship with other farmies and Jon and Maria and some other folks from Blue Star Equiculture a draft horse rescue in Mass. The food was great and it was really cool to spend time in a place that Jon has shared on his blog for many years. The town of Cambridge, NY is very nice and I can see why one would be drawn to this community. I hope to explore the town more when we head back in October for the next Open House.

After we packed our car we headed back to Cambridge to see if the Open House was going to happen and sure enough it was. I was glad bc I was not ready for it to end. The rain held off and it was a great day. There were fewer people and that was nice as we could spend a bit more time chatting with Jon. I was able to buy some more wonderful things from Maria’s shop. I love Maria’s fiber arts and had to have another potholder.  I was taken by the batik work of Carol Law Conklin.  Rachel Barlow’s cartoons on magnets were a hit as was her Hoga necklaces (i bought two)I loved all of the artists showcased – there was so much talent there.

For me the weekend was about many things. Overcoming fear…living in the moment and connecting with people. Meeting all of the farmies was just wonderful and I want them to know that I so appreciate the way they welcomed me. I want to thank each of you by name but if I left anyone out I would feel bad…you know who you are and I send you a cyber hug of thanks and love. I look forward to meeting more farmies on my future trips to the Open Houses. I am not sure I can really ever put into words what the weekend meant to me. I know those that have made the journey for the fist time know the feeling.

Jon and Maria thank you for opening your home for this event. Jon I probably will never be able to really tell you how you have inspired me and made me think about things. Your open writing has helped me (and many others a lot). See I don’t have the proper words so I will just leave it there.

I will see you all in October – I will probably have to fight the anxiety demon some but he won’t win….

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry….

These weren’t tears of sadness – they were tears of gratitude. It was the end….but it was also the beginning of something new and special. Making friends is not easy for me…but I feel like I made some new friendships and connections and I think this is just the beginning of more joys to come…

Thanks for reading…

 

Persistent ride…

Last Sunday was a beautiful day here in central Maryland. So I decided after returning from a Trek to the grocery store that I would ride my horse Harley. I got my stuff out. Lassoed my valiant steed ( really I just put the halter on). I brushed him and Airy ,my Arab, since she was hanging around. I gave Harley some treats for not being “girthy” (when a horse gets pissy when you pull the girth tight to secure the saddle. He once bit Kevin in the butt. ) We put Airy out in one field. I headed to the other with Harley walking along very nicely. That is until we got to the round pen. I made the mistake of deciding to mount in the round pen where there is grass. Lush grass which he promptly began eating. With his head down and me not having the strength bc of my bad shoulder to haul his head up and get on at the same time- mounting was going to be tricky! I was very proud that i still yanked myself up into the saddle bc about six weeks ago I found that I had gotten too weak. Well after much working out I was so happy that I was stronger. I pulled his head away from the grass and we were off!

Ah but once on I could tell Harley and I had different agendas! I wanted to ride him and he didn’t want that at all. It didn’t help that Airy was right in the next field eating grass. I have a gauge of how keyed up my horse is by how it feels to be on his back. When he’s keyed up or hell bent on getting his way his back is stiff and he holds his head up. He’s twitchy is how it feels to me. Harley was super twitchy that day. This could be an interesting ride.

We rode around in the round pen for a bit. The gate to the pen was open to the inside so we couldn’t really ride the rail. I decided to take him out of the pen into the field. He felt less twitchy. He wanted out of the pen as he had been attempting to point himself toward the gate while I was warming him up in the pen. So leaving the pen was easy. The problem arose when we got out of the pen. I was planning to go one way and Harley clearly wanted to go another way- back to the barn. This was not a good thing. This created a dance. Woman on horse as he dances sideways -woman trying to correct him by using leg and rein reminders and woman feeling like if we kept going sideways woman might end up on the grass. I decided to pull him in a small circle by using an open but direct rein. I might interject here that in dressage which is how I was trained the rein is used as a reminder- we don’t pull them to turn our horse- we use our seat and legs. So using a rein like this is a correction but sometimes it is needed.  Horses don’t like turning in small circles. My past riding instructor always said make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. It’s pretty hard to go in one direction when your head is being pulled in another. When you go where I want Harley I’ll make it easy. Turning in small circles usually works but this time I had to add a little thwack with the crop but he decided my direction would work for him.

I hate when rides start out like this. It keys me up and I get frustrated. And I then wonder why he is being this way. But it’s not like he’s never done this before. It had been a while is all. So I got my bossy pants on and decided how I wanted this ride to go. I have found that with him my persistence usually pays off. But sometimes it takes a lot of persistence and patience. If I get mad then things go downhill. Persistence is not anger- it is asking over and over again for something until you get it. I have also learned from training my Arab Roy that once in a while things don’t go the way you are picturing it so it is best to back off and do something you know the horse will do and then end that ride or lesson. I did not was that to happen on Sunday but I was prepared for it. But I set off with persistence.

It took Harley a while to decide he was on board. His back was still twitchy. He wanted to break into a trot. A gait we don’t do much bc he is gaited horse. I decided to take him in a serpentine pattern as the changing of direction engages their brains. I then let him go into his working walk which is a smooth gait faster than a walk. He wanted to go his way again.

So it went like this : Oh I guess we are going in a circle again sir! Am I’m not being clear? “Ack” my negative word to him when he’s being naughty.  Ok sorry I’m going to tap you with the crop again. Oh ok now you hear me. Praise praise for doing the right thing. And on we went.

A few serpentines. 20 meter circles. Crazy eights. I kept picturing how I wanted the ride to be. I kept taking deep breaths to rid myself of tension. Somewhere in the midst of this Harley began his moaning. I don’t have another name for it. But when he does that he’s relaxing. He’s in the moment with me. Yay! I was able to give him some leg. When he was keyed up I didn’t put leg on him bc that may have ended up with him breaking stride or going too fast.  I spent more time praising him. I asked him to go around the entire field and he mistook that for us going back to the barn. But he didn’t need any real correction. It was more like he was saying “my bad I thought we were done “.  Back out into the field once more. Around once and down the centerline for a halt. Pretty solid. Didn’t want to hold the halt but that’s ok. We got through and lets end this on a good note. Out we went towards the barn on a loose rein.

After I ride I often think about what I can do better. ESP on rides like Sunday’s. I like that I had persistence and I put confidence out there. I didn’t like that I got frustrated with Harley right off the bat. I liked that we developed the connection during that ride despite the tough start.

I was reading comments today on another blog post by Maria Wulf about animals mirroring our emotions. I think I will think about this next time I ride.  Am I being impatient? Am I distracted? Am I conveying proper confidence? It’s so important to be aware and present when riding.  Sometimes I lose myself in thought or in non thought. But being present and calm and clear is so important to the connection we have with our horses.

I know I was centered after my ride bc I decided to clean all my brushes and reorganize the stuff on my shelves in the barn. I must have been on an endorphin high! For me it’s that zen feeling that I get during and after a ride that I crave. It may not have been a perfect ride but it gave me the perfect feeling. So I will take that any day…

Thanks for reading…

PS- I am not an expert level rider! I am maybe low intermediate. Riding is a life long learning experience and I know what works with my horse. Don’t take my solutions as expert advice! Have fun and be safe!

IMG_9814

I am looking away- probably looking for anything that would distract harley in the field beyond. He is actually semi-relaxed here…we were still in the round pen!

This is an example below of a horse who did not want to go the way I wanted him to go- see my face- see his ears? See my left arm? I have opened it up and am pulling him around.
  Here we are in a better frame and somewhat more relaxed.  Oops He did it again! I am leaning forward and beginning to open my left rein to pull him – look at is ears…clearly not on board with what I was asking – so I have to be more persistent. Make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. He is a bugger sometimes!

Fat Axe, weak stick

“Your up there now” said my husband, Kevin, yesterday. This was in response to my frustration after attempting to get up onto my horse and freaking failing. Yes I was up there but I could not do it on my own. Kevin had to give me a leg up- and that means push my body up onto the horse. That had never ever been an issue for me until yesterday. I felt old and weak. Tears stung my eyes. “Fat Axe, Weak Stick..” I said to myself.

Yesterday I decided to try to ride – I hadn’t done so for 8 months. A frozen shoulder and then winter were my deterrents. The shoulder is still frozen but it isn’t in the pain phase (frozen shoulders have phases it seems)  and the ground was pretty dry and the outside temp balmy so I felt like I could handle my 1200 lb 15.3 hand horse ok. And I did once I was up there.

Have you ever taken for granted that you can do something physical – maybe like me you have done it hundreds of times before – and then you go to do it and you just can’t? You sit in surprise because you just can’t figure out why your body can’t do what your mind thinks it should be able to do. Well that was me. I could not get myself up on my horse as I had done so many times in the past. I put my leg in the stirrup- at this point I guess I should be happy I could lift it that high- and I grabbed a bit of mane with my left hand in the front of the saddle and I grabbed the back of the saddle  with the right. I knew I had limited strength in my right arm  and i think my shoulder is pretty useless too -but as I went to lift myself up onto the stirrup (and then the plan would have been to throw my right leg over the horse) I realized that there was no leverage, there was no strength- it wasn’t only the arms- it was the legs too. I was unable to get on my horse.

Mounting was never an issue- In the past I could mount a horse when it is walking (they aren’t supposed to walk when you mount but my horse sometimes finds that to be funny). Yesterday he wasn’t walking he was eating grass- another thing he should not do when saddled and bridled up- but I didn’t have the strength to hold the reins and hold his head up and get on the horse. So my hubby held him steady as I went to get on- I cannot even tell you the shock I felt when my body just hit a wall. It was like I was in the twilight zone. I looked around and up and down and shook my head- wondering if i was in an alter universe. I wasn’t dreaming because I felt every weak part of me straining to do the job of getting on the horse. It was super weird. I was very upset.

I have gained some weight over the winter. Not much – some probably was needed (though having been a chubby teen I have the mindset you can never be too thin) and there are about an extra 5 lbs. on me now I would like to shed..but I know the weight wasn’t the issue..I weighed a lot more when I began riding again at age 41. I could get on a horse then and I got on my horse 8 months ago….hmm but now that I think about it I used the mounting block bc my shoulder was beginning to freeze. Well—the time before I got up just fine. So what is the problem? I don’t know except  I suppose it comes from the issues with the shoulder. I was told not to work out my arms while I was in PT trying to unfreeze it. The PT said it could cause an imbalance. I am pretty into exercise and we have our own gym right in our barn bc my husband trains clients. I didn’t like the idea of not working out my upper body at all so I used bands for a bit and now I am using weights again except my shoulder only moves a little bit- but there was a point in the pain stage of frozen shoulder where I could not use my arm much bc it went into spasm and that was soooo painful..like cussing like a sailor and almost falling to the floor painful. So there was a point I really was not doing much work on my upper body and I am surprised how weak I have gotten.  But the old legs weren’t as strong either. I took it easy this winter more than I ever allowed myself before – early on I was depressed and later I was lazy..I could not get it together. So even if I worked out for an hour a day but was a sloth the rest of the day I wasn’t gaining much strength. I have been working out and have picked up the pace lately- I am logging my food intake on a cool app, I have my Fitbit back on and I am trying to get my strength back. But I didn’t realize until yesterday that I had lost the strength to mount a horse. —Umm this is not acceptable to me. It will be fixed.

I managed to curb my frustration enough to have a really good ride on my horse. After he was on mothballs for 8 months ( a term I heard a horse person – more horsey than I am- use once) he came out and behaved very well. I had that zen feeling on him – and all was good with the world except I wondered if I would be able to dismount correctly.  I had no idea but I knew if I got down ok I was getting back on again and again. SO I asked my dear patient husband to go into the barn and bring out my mounting block. We put it in the middle of the round pen and I led Harley over and I dismounted from him with extreme… – what is the opposite of grace- ungrace- yes it was like that.

So for the next 20 minutes I practiced getting up on my horse. He got to nibble on grass and I used the block to get up on him, I lowered the stirrups to their lowest point and tried over and over. I tried mounting from the other side – that feels weird! We had trouble with saddle slippage bc Harley is shedding – I will shave his girth area this week. I practiced climbing up on the round pen fence- what I thought would be easy was so hard. I struggled but I was determined to win. I huffed and puffed but I won some. I was very frustrated and I couldn’t see the good side. I was feeling very sorry for myself. But then my husband looked at me and said- “you rode your horse, you got on. You had a good ride. The best way to train for your sport is to do your sport. Keep doing your sport. Its been 8 months…so now you just ride as much as you can and you will gain your strength.” I realized he was right. Why am I complaining. I got to ride my horse. I can walk to my barn and get on a horse. I can move- I can get stronger. Some people aren’t as lucky.

Today I worked out in the gym and worked on strengthening my weak areas and like my husband said as I do my sport I will get stronger. The shoulder might be a hindrance until it unfreezes or the surgeon does that for me but I am not there yet with the surgery so I will have to learn to adapt to the limitation and stop the bravado and just deal with it. Because it is not really about how I get up on that horse it is about the ride once I am up there. It is about the connection and the freedom only being on the back of your horse can bring. I am nothing but blessed.

Thanks for reading…

 

 

 

He is the best horse for me…

 

 

 

Roy — giving up animals…thoughts about abuse and compassion

 

Roy was a beautiful Arabian gelding that I purchased as my first horse when he was only one. I had just gotten back into riding in my early 40’s and I had gotten my then 6 yr old daughter into riding as well. I think in my mind I thought we would grow into Roy. You don’t start training Arabs until they are 4 or more years old as they grow slowly. Roy was my step into being a “real” horse person. By the time Roy would be ready for real training I figured my daughter would be horse crazy and would love the challenge of training a green horse. In my mind I pictured her showing him and maybe even me as well if I had the courage.

It turns out I got somewhat impatient waiting for Roy to grow big enough for us to train and ride. I had been leasing an old mare named Shalimar and it was clear she would only take me so far as she was getting very arthritic and really didn’t enjoy much work under saddle. I know it can be good to ride an stiff horse but it became clear she would rather have not been ridden- so I gave up my lease on her and bought an Arab mare- Airy- that I thought would be a good project for me. It turns out Airy was more than I could handle. I was not confident enough to ride the sparky mare. She was quite touchy and spooky and I was always on pins and needles waiting for her to spook and take off with me. It did not help that I fell off her once – a soft fall- but still i fell off her and it didn’t help my confidence on her.

I had fallen for a gaited gelding – Harley- even before I bought Airy but it seemed like the 16 yr old girl who never came to ride him anymore would never give him up. I bought Airy for the wrong reasons – I wanted my own horse (and Harley wasn’t available) – but I didn’t really consider what I needed in a horse. I have learned a lot since those early years of my return to riding about what to look for when buying a horse. But I didn’t know that then so I forged ahead as I usually do dead set on getting what i wanted. And I bought her and she was too much for me.  But then my dream horse came available- Harley – the Gelding I fell for was up for sale and very cheap. I had NO business buying him – we did not need three horses. Harley was not a green horse- he was very rideable (though i had to learn to ride a gaited horse) and I just liked him…we clicked. So we bought him. (just an FYI – buying a horse is only the beginning of the costs associated with them- even a cheap horse is not really cheap – there is training, feed, hay, hoof care, and board if needed and vet care which can be $$$).

It turns out that Harley was the right horse for me. He is still with me and is a nice fun ride. So why is this story named Roy? Roy is the horse we had to give up. As it turns out my daughter decided she didn’t really want to ride anymore. We had begun Roys training and had been training him off and on for a number of years. He should have been further along but my daughters heart wasn’t in it anymore. She was off doing other things and I had Roy left with no time to train him. We had moved Airy and Harley to our farm and had left Roy at the farm where we had been boarding him for years. I did not know what to do with him. He had grown into a beautiful boy. He was smart and wanted to please. A real gem. He had the Arab hotness so he could be spooky but in the right hands he was going to be a fine horse. We needed to find him a home but selling a horse that isn’t trained is not easy.

Eventually I moved Roy to another farm so a friend of mine could train him. As his training progressed we realized that even trained we had too many horses and not enough riders. Keeping him was becoming very expensive – I could have brought him home to my farm though three horses on 4 acres is tight. I really didn’t want to bring him here bc I knew he was a wonderful horse that would just sit here and not be ridden(as was the case with Airy) – he needed more than that. So we decided to give him away. It broke my heart bc I loved him very much. He was probably the brightest of all my horses and the best among them but I had Harley and one was enough for me.

The owner of the farm where Roy was boarding found a new owner for Roy. He was moved again to a farm about a half hour from me. The new owner friended me on Facebook so I could see her posts about Roy. Early on when she got him I read some of the comments under some posts she had written. It became clear to me that people thought Roy was a “rescue” and they assumed he had been mistreated by his former owner. That hurt. Roy was very well cared for from his birth until we had to give him up. I was shocked that just bc he was free meant that he was a rescue. I began making a few comments on her Facebook about Roys past and how he had lived. I wanted to defend myself and prove I wasn’t an abuser.  It made me think about what I thought when I got my “rescue” dogs and what I thought when other people fell on hard times and had to give up their animals. Was I labeling my animals and judging the people who gave them up? Did I want to think of them as bad people?

I have learned from my own experience and the writings and experiences of others that we cannot be the ones to judge others. Author Jon Katz writes in detail about the label abuse that is so easily pasted onto homeless animals – it’s like a badge of honor we carry around for our pets – maybe bc it makes us feel good about ourselves to say we rescued a lost, abused, neglected dog. It doesn’t really say much about the animals as they are resilient – but it says much about ourselves. Jon Katz says that we should find compassion in people not hatred. Jon had a donkey who truly came from a situation of abuse/neglect. He went to meet the farmer who had caused the donkey so much suffering. In doing so Jon learned a lot about himself in the process. Compassion is not about forgiveness, and it isn’t about liking a fellow human, compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” (dictionary.com)

“When the door opened, I looked into the eyes of the farmer who treated my donkey so horribly, and all I saw was my own reflection.” 

“I did not see a devil when the door was opened in the farmer’s house. I saw a tired and soft-spoken and hollow-eyed man, a man mired in hard times and dirty jeans and mud-caked boots. His soul was nearly dead from struggling, from poverty, from brutish work and no success.”

“The farmer was not asking for forgiveness or understanding, and clearly was not expecting either. Nor did I offer any.”

“We talked for an hour or so, and I saw there was nothing much else to say. He seemed battered to me. The light had gone out in his soul, a part of him was already gone, battered, I think, out of existence. He was neither a good man nor a bad one, just  a man struggling alone with a life that  was bigger than he was. He seemed to small to hate, too beleaguered. And he had a family to feed. There is no excuse for him, he said by his own admission, yet what is compassion for, if not for those we don’t like and aren’t strong?” — Jon Katz

I was not a neglectful owner, we had never caused Roy any harm or pain. But people thought I had just bc I needed to re-home him. I did it bc I loved him and saw what he could be and we could not get him to that point. We couldn’t afford it anymore either. We wanted the best life for him.

Roy’s story didn’t end there. He wasn’t able to stay with the nice person who took him. She became ill herself and needed to re-home him yet again. I am not going to lie – it hurt me when I found out he was someplace else. I suppose knowing where he was and having some contact with the person who took him was a comfort to me. In many ways he still feels like my horse. I know he isn’t but I really loved him- still love him and want to know he is ok. When he was moved the last time I didn’t have the contact with the farm he went but recently I found out where he is. And guess what? All the things I had wanted for him came true. He is riding in shows -he is loved by his owner and by all the people at then farm where he now lives. He was learning drill training! He was the horse I knew he could be.

The woman who could not keep him anymore was not an abuser, she gave him up because she cared about him. She wanted a great home for him and I am grateful to her that she found one for him. Neither she nor I were neglectful owners – and it hurt me when someone would even consider that of me. I learned from that experience we need to watch jumping to conclusions. And as Jon Katz came face to face with his donkey’s “abuser” he learned that we cannot always understand people but we can show them compassion.

Last year when my husband was attacked by a rescue dog that we had adopted and had for 4 days the rescue blamed us for the attack. They chose to accuse us of doing something wrong to provoke the dog into biting my husband multiple times on his hands and legs. My husband became very ill and the rescue found NO compassion for my husband at all. They took the dog back and chose to treat the dog as a victim all over their Facebook page but it was my husband who suffered. Somewhere along the line we have become mixed up. I am a HUGE love of animals but I don’t think they are more important than humans. I don’t think they should get equal rights with humans. I think they should be treated humanely and I think animals can be our partners in life in work and in connection.

Don’t get me wrong there are horrible incidences of people treating animals in horrendous ways and these people should be punished. But even that doesn’t excuse us from compassion.  But we cannot label every animal who ends up homeless as abused and we cannot accuse owners who find themselves needing to give up their animals as abusers. And even in the case where Jon Katz met his donkeys abuser he saw something different than the person he thought would open the door. Jon writes so well about compassion and I see by his writing that our world is missing this in a time where we could all use a little bit of compassion. I could go on but I wont- but it might be of interest if you read the plight of Joshua Rockwell who had water issues on his farm this winter and one day his stream froze and he was off the farm and someone called animal control. Some of his animals were seized and he is being charged with neglect. He is new to farming but loves his animals- was he neglectful? Or was he just a farmer trying to get through a horrendous winter? I wonder if someone would take my hens if they had frostbite on their combs? My farm had issues with mud this year – is there too much? Will someone take my horses because I didn’t heat their barn? Or if someone thought I might need help would they offer it instead of reporting me to animal control? A little compassion- it goes a long way.

Thanks for reading….

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Roy and I in 2009…

 

 

The gift of a ride….

This weekend was busy. We had a lot of things to take care of but I was determined to get a ride on my horse Harely. Sunday morning I woke up with a stomach ache and I still hadn’t ridden. Saturday came and went so quickly. We ended that day having friends over for dinner and we were up late. The over-indulgence of toasted marshmallows may have contributed to my sunday stomach issues. I felt crappy but I knew I was going to ride even if I puked while doing it!

We had church- which I skipped trying to will my stomach into submission instead. I meditated and I finally got going. We had to take one son to his last soccer instruction before his try-outs this week. We ran to the county fair grounds to pick up my photos that I entered. Then we returned to pick up my son at soccer instruction. We walked around the school track until he was done- and i have to admit I felt tired and crummy but I really wanted to ride.

After we got home we did not have a big window for me to ride before my daughter needed a ride to a friends house.  I needed my daughter to tack up Harley for me. Which she was happy to do.

So out we went to get going and as promised my daughter helped with the grooming and then put on the saddle and bridle- I kind of like having a groom to ready my horse for me how aristocratic! But in the long run the grooming process is really a bonding time with the horse. So I like to groom. I will, however, take the offer to have someone put the saddle on and cinch up the girth anytime!

I use a mounting block to get on. It really is easy that way. I got it so kids could get on if needed. Glad I bought bc it was helpful for me. I had a lot of pride and wanted to be able to mount my usual way by running and jumping up by vaulting into his back. NO I’m lying of course. I get on like everyone else by putting my foot into the stirrup and pulling myself up. So the block alleviated the need for me to pull must up which is would have been hard with my chest and shoulder issues. So I swallowed my pride and mounted up.

Up I went and off we rode. Harley hadn’t been ridden in a while so I didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking he would be what I call squirrelly-a little on his toes and uppity. But he wasn’t! He walked calmly out into the field and was a true gentleman. He got a little distracted when I changed direction and also when my Arab mare was freaking out and running at a full gallop in the field next to us all because I put a grazing muzzle on her. Note to self : don’t put on a muzzle on your freaky Arab for the first time all summer when I will be in the other field riding. Lesson learned. Since my daughter was taking some pictures of me riding she was able to get the muzzle off my mare and she settled down well. The good thing is Harley knows she is a spaz and doesn’t react to her all that much thankfully bc I didn’t want to be captive on top of an upset galloping horse!

I only rode for 25 minutes. Harley was being so good and I knew I would tire out and know ending a ride on a good note is essential. Harley wasn’t in too great a form. He didn’t want to bend, he wanted to ride in his better direction , he was just rusty but he was calm-really calm. Harley may not have been tuned up -that will take time -buts it’s ok bc this was more about me and getting out there and riding my horse. It was about feeling free , it was about realizing I can ride despite some physical issues, it was about my soul. Harley was just the friend who took me out to accomplish this. The one who reads my needs. He somehow knew to be patient with me /he’s not always patient but yesterday he was.-like I said very calm. Harley murmurs when he’s calm during a ride(think hmmph hmmph hmmph) and he got to that place pretty fast yesterday. Maybe it was bc I had no expectation for him. Maybe it bc he read something in me. I don’t know. But for 25 minutes it was he and I and we were flying free – no past-no future-just the moment. Now that’s a gift.

Thanks for reading.

(ps- thank you Kamilla Sweeney and Kevin Sweeney for all your help – you know when something is important for me – often when I don’t! – luv u both…)

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Riding at last…wearing my ugly compression sleeve- but it works!!

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Harley and I

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This was us in 2009 before I brought him home to live in the backyard! He was boarded not to far from here.

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Harley in a good frame- well- he does like to come up over the bit (means he isn’t loving the connection to the bit)but this wasn’t too bad!

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Toweling Harley off – it wasn’t too hot thank gosh! The “farmer” man (my husband) was hanging with me.

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Airy the freak in full gallop bc she had to wear that muzzle.. See her Arab tail?!

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I did weaves with him which keeps him attentive to me bc I will be asking him to change direction often.

 

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Heading back in…

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We are doing a working walk in this picture- it is like a trot but Harley is gaited so his legs move laterally together making the gait very smooth to sit to.

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Again more extended working walk…

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I just liked this shot:)